Archive for November, 2008

Black Friday: Greed Kills

Sunday, November 30th, 2008

What the hell is wrong with our society?!?! We pick one day out of the year for beyond belief, phenomenal shopping deals, and in our desire for yet more material goods, we lose our humanity? At least three people were killed on Black Friday 2008, two from a shooting in a Toys-R-Us, and one from a trampling. Yes, one man was trampled to death as people ran over him to find their deals at Wal-Mart. The police that tried to save him were also beat around. One woman, eight months pregnant, was nearly driven to miscarriage. What the hell was so important that these people were literally willing to walk all over someone else? We dare to call ourselves intelligent, evolved, educated humans? And sure, most of the people reading this will be thinking, I’d never do that, I’m much more sensible, these were a few idiots. Well first, this few is dozens. A few people walking over a person isn’t likely to kill someone; it was dozens of people running over this poor man so they could buy something. I’ve never been so embarrassed to be human, to be American.

This isn’t just a simple problem of a some crazy people. As the years progress, we’ve seen Black Friday stores open earlier and earlier, deals getting more insane, and people following suit. Our mentality that you need stuff to be happy is fine in moderation, but its gone overboard. We’ve dropped to base, animal instinct. It’s wild creatures that fight over food, water, mates, and we’re supposed to be advanced, above animals. We have to get away from this needy mentality, where our possessions define us. When shopping kills, it may be time to reevaluate our own beliefs. Yah, I know this was a rant, no real substance, but think of the rage of it.

Faith and Politics

Friday, November 21st, 2008

Sometimes when I watch some YouTube videos on religion, I just get depressed. Our most recent election brought religious fury to the foreground, bringing doubt of our political leader’s religion, for no other reason then to bring doubt to the politician himself. Now mind you, I have a lot to say about religious “arguments” on YouTube in general, but I really do wanna talk about faith, politics and public policy, and how they meet.

I’m gonna preface this by saying, to be clear, I am not an atheist. I don’t dislike religion. In fact, I believe in the power and use of religion. If there were ever to be a debate on whether religions should be discontinued or not, I would be on the site advocating for their continuation. What I can’t abide by are some of the uses of religion as an inconsistent moral compass, whether it can be taken apart and subjected to individual whim to fit the view you think (on purpose or not) as the most advantageous for yourself. Religion has its purposes; I don’t believe it has a direct role in public welfare.

I Stumble a lot. I don’t know what people did to find websites before Stumble. I guess viral was really the only way. Anyway, I happened to stumble across a YouTube video where then Senator Obama spoke about his views on religion mixing with public policy. I found this rather interesting, as the views were sort of in line with how I see faith and politics. More importantly, after watching it, I watched some of the related videos, including one by a Mediterranean or Middle Eastern Christian (sorry, can’t pinpoint his accent) who first thanks a Muslim for bringing out the “truth” on Obama, then attacks passages from the Qaran, one where Dr. Dobson talks about how Obama is just distorting the Bible, and Ann Coulter “puts down” Obama on this particular speech.

I am deeply disturbed by the religious elements of this past election, namely the attacks on Obama. I have never seen attacks on a candidates religion like this before. Clearly a Christian, Obama was accused of being a Muslim (as if that in itself made him a threat), he was attacked for his pastor, he was attacked for his view points on Christianity. Even now as President elect, he seems to be portrayed as the most dangerous thing to ever happen to America. This from many of the same people who denounce anyone who speaks out against President Bush. A friend of mine made an interesting comment a little earlier: “It’s funny that the most prudish, moralistic people are also the ones most likely to breach basic ethics for the sake of their agenda.”

Any attack on Obama having possibly been Muslim at some point in his childhood is pointless. To say he’s “secretly” a Muslim while pretending to be a Christian is just insulting to anyone who can think on their own. Most Christian denominations pride themselves on the fact that once someone is “converted”, they are saved. Obama faithfully attended a church for at least 20 years, and for all accounts and purposes, has shown himself to be a true Christian, much more then many today. Graduating from a prestigious law school, instead of taking up a big salary job, he gave back to his community. He appears to be a faithful husband and father. He supports the unity of all mankind with minimum violence. Now given, this also sounds like what Islam teaches as well… but we’ll ignore that because apparently, Islam is “evil”. Anyway, these attacks are no more then the grown up versions of the childhood insults like “He’s gay!”, given when a bully doesn’t like one kid, with of course no evidence or even logical reasons. Dr. Dobsen even attacked Obama’s interpretation of the Bible. What makes Dobsen more correct then Obama? Does Dobsen know something about the Bible that the rest of the world doesn’t? Honestly, I think people like Dobsen are the ones with a distorted version of the Bible. I always wonder about this… the Bible is the word of God, who is perfect, but written by men, who are imperfect, yet the Bible maintains it’s holy level of perfection. Does this means that the people who transcribe the bible are infallible? Or that they are touched by God? If I choose to copy the bible, word for word, what would that mean for me?

The Codex Gigas from the 13th century, held at...

Image via Wikipedia

In general, the attacks on his views on Christianity seem to only come from the super conservatives who think they and their followers are the only true Christians. Lets take a look at some of what Obama said. First and foremost, he advocates for the separation of religion and policy. He talks about the diversity of religion, and the diversity of Christianity itself. He talks about not taking the Bible literally, quoting lines from the Bible that no sensible person today would implement. He asks that religion be translated into universal reasoning in cases of public policy. He says he’ll use logic before religion. Most importantly, he makes the audacious claim that people want to use religion to bridge, not divide! (That’s me being sarcastic in case it’s not obvious).

Now, I’ve never been a big follower of people like Ann Coulter. I didn’t know much about her before this. I’m not sure how someone like her actually becomes popular. It scares me to think ideas like her are common-place enough to have multiple books authored. I don’t think every Christian out there was scared that Obama was Muslim (or Arab, as if those are connected), but I do know a lot were, as evident from one of McCain’s supporter’s misconceptions. It does scare me to think that people could be brought to such levels of fear by a religion that teaches the value of every human life. The truth is Obama has one of the best religious-political views I’ve ever heard. He doesn’t denounce religion, nor reduce his support of it, but he uses it as a guiding factor of morality. Anyone who can attack him for being moral without bringing religion directly into fray while spouting on and on about Christianity and the values of this great nation needs to reexamine both accounts and truly look within themselves. I’m no Christian, but I believe in the value of the good Book rather then select one of its hundreds of interpretations to cherry-pick my religious beliefs. I figure its better to believe in the whole of one religion rather then the pieces of a dozen.

Have we really changed?

Friday, November 7th, 2008

Obama 08 Logo

Obama '08 Logo

I think a lot of people will remember where they were at 11PM on November 4th, 2008. Whether you agree with his politics or not, it was a historic moment when Senator Barack Obama became the President Elect, 44th to hold the highest office in the United States. The first non-white man to become president, Obama hopefully represents a new age in race relations in America. It was a big step in unified equality in the US. Or was it?

As California’s results came in to secure Obama’s victory, the populous of the state also passed Proposition 8, banning gay marriage. So as non-whites (or perhaps only African Americans) took a step forward, gays took a step back. Gay couples still retain rights as a couple, so what does marriage matter? Now note, I’m not from the Sunshine State, so any “facts” are from conversation and research. To me the answer is simple: denying a couple marriage says they are not the same, puts them apart. It says gay people do not deserve the same things, or do not deserve the same choices the rest of us have. At one point, non-white, non-men could not vote, and over time, as Americans we stood up against this discrimination. At one point, an African American had to give up their seat on a bus to a white American, and as Americans, we stood up against this discrimination. Now gays are being denied the right to marry, and as Americans, we’re the ones denying them this right. How is it not discrimination?

King and King

King and King

It seems one of the biggest pushes was a campaign that didn’t want homosexual marriage taught in schools. I came across the site for Protect Marriage – Vote Yes on 8. I watched some of the videos on the site, and the only thought I had was, are you kidding me? Two parents were upset because their child read a book about a prince marrying another prince… and this is a problem why? Should a gay couple be up in arms every time a story is read in class about a prince marrying a princess? Kids don’t pull these fascinating conclusions out of simple fairy or folk tales that we adults do. The reason a story about a prince marrying a prince stands out so much to them is because its ingrained everywhere else in our world that marriage is between a man and a woman. The parents from Massachusetts said they thought the school would at least wait till the kids had been through sex ed. What in the world does gay marriage have to do with sex ed? Perhaps all discussion on straight marriage should be banned until kids go though sex ed. To say the two are connected is absolute bull.

A majority of objection to gay marriage comes from the religious crowd, who clamor that marriage should only be between a man and a woman. They say the sanctity of marriage needs to be protected. Where is the sanctity of marriage upheld in Vegas side-street chapels, with the ceremony behind conducted by an Elvis look-alike, with a drunken bride and groom? Where the sanctity of marriage being preserved with the divorce rate in America on the rise? Oh, right. Its protected as long as it follows their religious beliefs. Which are up to their interpretation, but never correctly analyzed by non-believers. I’ve done a bit of research, and I really think I need to read the Bible myself, because as far as I can tell, the evidence condemning homosexuality is circumstantial at least, up for interpretation at best. And yet that same book is very clear on other facts, like not judging others.

To me, this was a great move to show that while as a people we can accept non-Caucasians in America, or again maybe just African Americans, that’s pretty much the extent of our understanding (as an Indian, I still get discriminated against). We still think certain people don’t deserve rights, simply because we don’t agree with them. But in a sense, the 5th was also an ending step of discrimination in America. Its been gone on the surface for a while, but its the first sign that its really dying as a whole. Now that one battle is over, the next can begin.